Editor's Desk - April 2006
Find a printable version here

Let the Gaming Begin

“Play is the exultation of the possible.”

—Martin Buber

If there's one universal truth about programming: You can never have too many fresh ideas. Never.

As I fondly recall from my days as a camp instructor, we always were hunting and scrambling for new icebreakers, new projects, new crafts, new stories, new activities and, of course, new games. While the old standbys are great, let's be honest, you can only realistically play Steal the Bacon, SPUD or Red Light Green Light so many times—no matter how much a fave with your crowd—before, well, you hit a red light.

That's why I love to hear about original programming, especially games that have evolved via kids' playing and morphed into whole-new contests of not only strength and skill but stealth and smarts. I'm also intrigued by activities that have developed as a hybrid of two or more sports or have transformed into an interesting, swirling mix of multiple elements.

If you're also a fan of new pastimes, then you're bound to enjoy our back-page essay kindly sent to us for sharing by one of our YMCA readers (the story behind which you can peruse on the previous page).

Not only are such fresh ideas fun to share, but just as importantly, they serve as good reminders to keep encouraging your own staff and patrons' unique blend of creativity and play when it comes to programming. Sometimes it's just as engaging to invent and hone a new game as it is to actually play the game itself; the creative process is just as an important exercise.

In addition, especially these days when we witness so many examples of over-scheduled youngsters (more the rule than the exception), it's great to see kids have time to, well, just be kids. Give them time to unplug. Give them a chance to develop their imaginations, not just their sense of agendas and mandated activities.

Unfortunately, many kids do not have the luxury of flexible neighborhood play time that was such a natural part of childhood only a few decades back. But with the right offerings of programming or "non-programming" or at least fresh adventures in creativity, your facility can help bridge that gap.

Make sure you are giving play and imagination a green light.


Jenny E. Beeh

P.S. Big congrats to our writer Elisa Kronish who gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Haley Iris, on March 8. Best wishes to the proud new parents, Elisa and her husband, Kevin. Have fun!

Feel free to drop us a line. Any feedback is great; establishing an industry forum for the open exchange of ideas is even better. So don't be shy with your thoughts, opinions and questions. Any topic is fair game, and no query is too big or too little.

Playing Gladiator

I am the teen director at the Madison Area YMCA in Madison, N.J. I have been with the YMCA for about 10 years. Most of my time was spent with resident camping, but I have been in a facility environment for the past three years. Finding new games and activities for teens is a much harder part of the recreation field, and many publications out there are more appropriate for school-aged kids or just for icebreakers and filler activities. There are many people in my field that receive your magazine, as not just a colorful collection of items that we drool over and wish were budgeted for but as a resource for ideas found in your articles. I would love to see articles on new activities and games for teens. Not just actual program ideas like paintball or climbing walls but actual fun, original and athletic activities for teens.

With those thoughts in mind, we have a game we would love to share with the youth recreation world. It is called "YMCA Gladiator" and is played in a gymnasium-sized space with about 20 teens. We have teens traveling from neighboring towns to our Friday night Teen Scene program just to play this game. It is a combination of capture the flag, dodgeball, flag-football and paintball. It is completely insane fun and, after a year, injury-free. I would love to prepare an article with rules, layout, game psychology and photos. Hopefully this would be a spearhead for other articles about "new games."

Each for All,
Joey Welle
Teen Program Director
Madison Area YMCA
Madison, N.J.

Editor's Note: Great idea. Without further ado, you can check out the complete rundown of YMCA Gladiator in our programming profile. Thanks for sharing your cool game, Joey.